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Saturday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Jeff Niemann

09.17.11 at 3:53 am ET
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Jon Lester

In the third game of a pivotal four-game series against the Rays, the Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound on Saturday at Fenway Park. Lester will try to make up for a poor start against the Rays in his last outing, while Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann will look to replicate the success he had against the Sox on Aug. 16, when he threw a complete game.

Lester (15-7, 3.07 ERA) lasted just four innings last Sunday against the Rays, allowing four runs in a loss. It was tied for his shortest outing of the season and gave the Rays the series sweep.

Besides that start, however, Lester has been excellent lately, recording a 2.63 ERA over his last 10 outings. The left-hander has been fanning batters at a good clip as well, striking out 59 in those games.

Lester has a 4.00 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season, going 1-2 in those games. Johnny Damon is hitting .300 with two home runs and seven RBIs against Lester. The Rays lineup as a unit has .245 average against the Boston starter.

Niemann (10-7, 3.97 ERA) has had a solid year for Tampa Bay in the middle of the rotation. After struggling against Texas on Sept. 6, when he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, Niemann rebounded to pitch 7 2/3 innings while giving up only two runs against the Orioles in a win on Monday.

Niemann has been especially good against the Red Sox this season, allowing two runs in two starts (17 innings). That includes that complete game on Aug. 16, when Niemann allowed two runs and struck out 10 in the win over Boston. The current Red Sox lineup has been dismal against Niemann, hitting .130 off the Rays starter collectively. Conor Jackson is the only Boston player hitting above .200 off of Niemann.

Rays vs. Jon Lester

B.J. Upton (57 plate appearances): .208 BA/.263 OBP/.396 SLG, 1 double, 3 HRs, 7 RBIs, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (45): .250 BA/.333 OBP/.500 SLG, 4 doubles, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 5 walks, 13 strikeouts

Ben Zobrist (33): .214 BA/.333 OBP/.250 SLG, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 5 walks, 13 strikeouts

Johnny Damon (32): .300 BA/.344 OBP/.567 SLG, 1 triple, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Kelly Schoppach (23): .250 BA/.348 OBP/.450 SLG, 1 double, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts

Sean Rodriguez (15): .167 BA/.267 OBP/.250 SLG, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Casey Kotchman (10): .222 BA/.300 OBP/.200 SLG, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Sam Fuld (6): 1-for-6, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Desmond Jennings (6): 2-for-6, 1 double, 2 strikeouts

Elliot Johnson (5): 1-for-5, 1 strikeout

Dan Johnson (3): 2-for-3

Justin Ruggiano (3): 2-for-3

Brandon Guyer (2): 1-for-2

Matthew Joyce (2): 0-for-1, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jose Lobaton (2): 0-for-2

Reid Brignac and John Jaso have not faced Lester.

Red Sox vs. Niemann

Marco Scutaro (21 plate appearances): .167 BA/.286 OBP/.167 SLG, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (12): .222 BA/.417 OBP/.667 SLG, 1 double, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia (12): .200 BA/.273 OBP/.200 SLG, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Jacoby Ellsbury (11): .o91 BA/.o91 OBP/.364 SLG, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 strikeouts

Kevin Youkilis (9): 0-for-8, 3 strikeouts

Adrian Gonzalez (7): 1-for-6, 1 walk

Josh Reddick (6): 0-for-5, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek (6): 1-for-6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Jed Lowrie (5): 1-for-5, 1 strikeout

Conor Jackson (4): 1-for-4, 1 strikeout

Mike Aviles (3): 0-for-3, 1 strikeout

Carl Crawford (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts

Darnell McDonald (3): 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts

Lars Anderson (1): 0-for-1, 1 strikeout

Joey Gathright, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have not faced Niemann.

Read More: jeff niemann, Johnny Damon, Jon Lester,
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